Fwd: Open Document Format and Microsoft

David Poehlman david.poehlman at handsontechnologeyes.com
Fri Jul 7 16:24:50 UTC 2006

Begin forwarded message:

From: Steve Pattison <srp at internode.on.net>
Date: July 7, 2006 10:18:32 AM EDT
To: Access-L <access-l at access-l.com>
Subject: Fwd: Open Document Format and Microsoft
Reply-To: access-l at access-l.com

> To: gui-talk at nfbnet.org
> From: David Andrews dandrews at visi.com
This is an interesting article below, and probably will avoid a
potential showdown.

There is something called ODF Open Document Format, an open
standard that some are adopting.  Massachusetts plans on doing so,
but some people in the disability advocacy field, while they might
support the goals of ODF, had concerns that much of the software
that used files in this format was partially or completely
inaccessible.  Microsoft Office initially had no plans of supporting
it in any way, but it looks like they are backing off from that


July 06, 2006
(IDG News Service)
   -- In a tacit acknowledgment of the OpenDocument Format's (ODF)
increased momentum, Microsoft Corp.
   today that it will back an open-source project to create software
allowing Microsoft Office users to open and save files in ODF.

The project, to be hosted on Sourceforge.net, will be led by three
independent software vendors funded by Microsoft and is open to all
developers, according
to Tom Robertson, general manager for standards and
interoperability for Microsoft.

The goal is a free plug-in that allows users to natively save files
in ODF within Office, as well as convert files in Office 2007's
OpenXML format to ODF
and back. That plug-in is expected by December, with similar
plug-ins for Excel and PowerPoint expected in 2007, according to
Jean Paoli, Microsoft's general
manager for interoperability and XML architecture.

The Belgian and Danish governments both announced last month that
they will move to ODF, a free XML file format approved by the
International Organization
for Standardization (ISO) in May. They join the commonwealth of
Massachusetts, which said in September it would begin migrating
state employees to ODF
by Jan. 1, 2007.

Norway and France are also considering ODF, which proponents argue
is better at ensuring long-term accessibility to documents and opens
the door for organizations
to use alternative productivity software, including OpenOffice.org
and Sun Microsystems Inc.'s StarOffice.

"XML is good, standardized XML is good and choice is good. This is
an interesting announcement," said Louis Gutierrez, CIO for
Massachusetts. Gutierrez,
who took over as CIO at the beginning of the year, told
Computerworld that earlier this year he had suggested to Microsoft
that it create a plug-in that
would translate between OpenXML -- the native file format of Office
2007 -- and ODF.

Rebuffed at the time, Gutierrez in May sought information on
potential plug-ins from third-party software vendors. Sun and five
smaller independent software
vendors responded.

Belgian officials praised the Microsoft move. "This is an important
commitment regarding software interoperability. Hence, we're
extremely pleased by this
announcement by Microsoft," said Peter Vanvelthoven, Belgian's
minister of employment and computerization. Belgium approved the use
of ODF June 23, but
said it will also use Microsoft's OpenXML format if it is accepted
as a standard by the ISO.

The three firms working on the Microsoft-sponsored plug-in --
Paris-based Clever Age, which has written most of the code thus far,
India's AztecSoft, which
will test it, and Germany's Dialogika, which will test and help
implement the finished product -- were not among the respondents to

According to Paoli, Clever Age approached Microsoft last year after
some initial development. "They started having good results, so we
asked them to continue," he said.

Microsoft is providing an undisclosed amount of money to the three
firms creating the plug-in, which is expected to let users convert
multiple files at the same time.

"No translator will be perfect. OpenXML we believe is more fully
featured than other XML formats. So some formatting will be lost in
the translation," Paoli

Until now, Microsoft has publicly declined to make OpenXML
compatible with ODF, saying any such move would stifle its own
innovation. But Robertson acknowledged
that the company had been discussing that option with government
customers for months.

Besides bankrolling the project, Microsoft will provide only
technical assistance. In other words, the project is fully
open-source and not run by the company.

"Clever Age is the owner of the project, but as in any good
open-source project, anyone can participate, anyone can modify or
develop on top of it. We are not a gatekeeper in any way," Paoli
said. The plug-ins will work with the upcoming Office 2007, as well
as for older versions of Office, he said.

Paul DeGroot, an analyst at Kirkland, Wash.-based Directions on
Microsoft, said that while Microsoft's move was "inevitable," it
goes against the company's
normal tactics.

"One of Microsoft's most important principles has been to control
standards, don't let others set standards for you. When that has
happened, they have regretted
it," DeGroot said. "They might succeed in marginalizing ODF, but
they also give away any clout in future ODF discussions and risk the
possibility that customers who care deeply about format longevity
and long-term document accessibility will go with ODF rather than
Office XML."

DeGroot said the move is a "half-way measure" by Microsoft, which
he says "would do a whole lot better if they would just bite the
bullet and do this themselves.
If they did, anyone who bought Office would have it, and Microsoft
would support it. In my view, they're setting themselves up for a
major headache later

But other observers praised Microsoft's move to dip its toes into
the open-source waters it has long publicly disdained. "I welcome
Microsoft into the OpenDocument
environment," said Douglas Johnson, corporate standards program
manager at Sun. "Sometimes zebras get new stripes."


David Andrews
Chief Technology Officer
Minnesota State Services for the Blind
2200 University Ave. W., #240
St. Paul, MN  55114-1840
(651) 642-0513  Office
(612) 730-7931  Cell
(651) 649-5927  Fax

> David Andrews and white cane Harry.

Regards Steve
Email:  srp at internode.on.net
Skype:  steve1963
MSN Messenger:  internetuser383 at hotmail.com

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